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Plum Properties, LLC v. North Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., Inc.

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

August 1, 2017

PLUM PROPERTIES, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTH CAROLINA FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., SABAHETA SELAK, MATEJ SELAK aka Matek Selak, DELISA L. SPARKS aka Delisa L. Thompson aka Delisa L. Tucker, JEREMY TUCKER, Defendants.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 5 April 2017.

         Appeal by plaintiff from order entered 14 June 2016 by Judge Susan E. Bray in Guilford County No. 15CVS7639 Superior Court.

          Gregory A. Wendling for plaintiff-appellant.

          Pinto Coates Kyre & Bowers, PLLC, by Deborah J. Bowers, for defendant-appellee.

          BERGER, Judge.

         Plum Properties, LLC ("Plaintiff") appeals the June 14, 2016 order granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's declaratory judgment action. Plaintiff argues that summary judgment was improper because there remain genuine issues of material fact concerning ambiguities in insurance policies issued by North Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, Inc. ("Defendant Insurance Company"; insurance company and its insureds, collectively, "Defendants") that may entitle Plaintiff to relief. We disagree.

         Factual & Procedural Background

         This declaratory judgment action arose from an underlying claim brought by Plaintiff against Defendants, including M. Selak and J. Tucker (collectively "minor insureds"), for allegedly vandalizing and breaking into properties owned by Plaintiff.

         During the late night and early morning hours between November 5 and 21, 2010, Plaintiff claims that the minor insureds vandalized four houses on Orville Drive in High Point, North Carolina ("Properties") which are owned or managed by Plaintiff. The vandalism allegedly occurred on three separate occasions, causing approximately $58, 000.00 in damages. In addition to the claims made against the minor insureds for "intentionally, willfully and maliciously" damaging and destroying the Properties, Plaintiff also brought claims against Sabaheta Selak, the mother of M. Selak, and Delisa Sparks, the mother of J. Tucker (collectively "parent insureds"), for negligence and negligent supervision of their minor children.

         The parent insureds have homeowners' insurance policies issued through Defendant Insurance Company ("Policies") that were in effect for the period during which the damage occurred. The Policies, for each parent insured, contain the same relevant provisions for purposes of determining whether coverage exists for the damage caused by the minor insureds.

         Section II(A) of the Policies controls the extent of coverage for personal liability claims brought against persons insured under the Policies. Section II(A) covers, in relevant part, all claims "brought against an 'insured' for damages because of . . . 'property damage' caused by an 'occurrence'." The definitions section of the Policies defines "insured" to include relatives of the policy holder who reside in the policy holder's household. "Occurrence" is defined as "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions" which results in property damage. Where Section II(A) applies, the Policies will pay up to the Policies' respective liability limits for any damages for which an insured is legally liable.

         The Policies also contain specific exclusion clauses to the personal liability coverage. Under Section II(E), coverage of Section II(A) is excluded where the property damage that occurs "is intended or may be reasonably expected to result from the intentional acts or omissions or criminal acts or omissions of one or more 'insured' persons." This exclusion applies regardless of whether the insured is charged with or convicted of a crime.

         On July 29, 2015, Plaintiff brought this declaratory judgment action against Defendant Insurance Company seeking a declaration that the alleged damages arising out of the underlying claim are covered under the Policies issued by Defendant Insurance Company. Defendant Insurance Company filed motions for dismissal and summary judgment on February 11, 2016.

         In an order filed June 14, 2016, the trial court granted Defendant Insurance Company's motion for summary judgment on the declaratory judgment action concluding that the damages sustained by Plaintiff were excluded from the insurance ...


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